Monday, July 8, 2013

FI: The Hunter (2011)

The Hunter
Australia, 2011
Written and Directed by Daniel Nettheim

There are a few approaches one can take when talking about The Hunter. Is it a film about loners and the need for connection, as evidenced by its central "lone wolves" (Willem Dafoe's gun-for-hire Martin David and the potentially-not-quite-extinct Tasmanian tiger he's sent to track by a biotech firm looking to patent a DNA sample before wiping the species out for good)? After all, when did you last see a movie in which a character's first-act claims of not needing anyone aren't ultimately "corrected" by the third? Or is it an environmentalist movie about the toll of industry, defense contracting, and technology on both the environment and on man himself? There's certainly evidence for that, too. You could talk about the film's occasionally-spotty logic, or the few abrupt developments or odd character beats that don't quite tie up as you'd hope. All of these approaches are valid.

For me, as I watched The Hunter, it became less a film to think about than a film to be felt. Its silences, its taut editing, and economical shot choices tell a sharply-visualized story geared toward creating an emotional response. I don't mean sentimentality—though there is sentiment that is often earned—but, rather, an old-school tension and unease that arises from a solid understanding of film style. It is simultaneously a corporate thriller gone rural, an existentialist parable steeped in environment, and a "broken family" tale, and manages each effectively. Dafoe gives a great performance in realizing and grounding his character's arc, and young Morgana Davies is wonderful as the vibrant Katie, daughter of the lonely Lucy (Frances O'Connor) whose husband previously disappeared while searching for tigers. The film is often as meticulous and practical as its main character, to its benefit, though I can't help but wonder what someone even less plot-focused, like Werner Herzog, would have made from the source material. Even so, The Hunter is far better than the sum of its parts and well worth a watch.


  1. The scene where the generator starts up and Lucy awakes to the Springsteen song and mistakes Dafoe for her husband is just heart breaking. As a bracer after watching this film I highly recommend the Dafoe episode of Fishing with John.

    1. Sadly, Fishing With John did little for me:

      That said, you're right about the generator sequence. Extremely well-handled and emotionally brutal. There's an interesting parallel with Lucy's awakening and Martin's emotional awakening, as well. The film is full of parallels like that, giving it a lot of hidden depth.